England's Chief (Orthodox) Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks writes (I have added the emphases):
...You cannot expect the foundations of western civilisation to crumble
and leave the rest of the building intact. That is what the greatest of
all atheists, Nietzsche, understood with terrifying clarity and what his
-latter-day successors fail to grasp at all.
Time and again in his later writings he tells us that losing
Christian faith will mean abandoning Christian morality.
No more ‘Love
your neighbour as yourself’; instead the will to power. No more ‘Thou
shalt not’; instead people would live by the law of nature, the strong
dominating or eliminating the weak. ‘An act of injury, violence,
exploitation or destruction cannot be “unjust” as such, because life
functions essentially in an injurious, violent, exploitative and
destructive manner.’ Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite, but there are
passages in his writing that come close to justifying a Holocaust.
This had nothing to do with him personally and everything to do with
the logic of Europe losing its Christian ethic...
Lose the Judeo-Christian sanctity of life and
there will be nothing to contain the evil men do when given the chance
and the provocation.
Richard Dawkins, whom I respect, partly understands this. He has said
often that Darwinism is a science, not an ethic. Turn natural selection
into a code of conduct and you get disaster.
But if asked where we get
our morality from, if not from science or religion, the new atheists
start to stammer.
They tend to argue that ethics is obvious, which it
isn’t, or natural, which it manifestly isn’t either, and end up vaguely
hinting that this isn’t their problem. Let someone else worry about it.
I have no desire to convert others to my religious beliefs. Jews don’t
do that sort of thing. Nor do I believe that you have to be religious to
But Durant’s point is the challenge of our time. I have not
yet found a secular ethic capable of sustaining in the long run a
society of strong communities and families on the one hand, altruism,
virtue, self-restraint, honour, obligation and trust on the other.
century after a civilisation loses its soul it loses its freedom also.
That should concern all of us, believers and non-believers alike.